Yesterday, I met my little from Big Brothers and Big Sisters for our monthly date. We’ve been together for 8 years and our favorite dates are mostly just catching up over food! She wanted something sweet and I’ve been on a green tea dessert kick. I suggested we try cream puffs from Cream Whiskers, mostly because I heard they had a matcha flavored cream puff. I think I’m on a new mission to find all the green tea desserts available in Austin.
Located near the University of Texas campus, Cream Whiskers is a cozy nook serving cream puff desserts and teas and coffee. You can choose the traditional puff tops or a cookie top. We both opted for the traditional puffy tops. I went with their matcha option and my little ordered the Cookies & Cream. The puffs are made to order and whimsical! I felt like I was consuming dreamy clouds of sugar!
Matcha Azuki with a red bean paste, $4.99
Cookie N’ Cream, $4.99
Question: How do you feel about matcha or green tea as a dessert flavor?
Sometimes I’m late to the party. I’m a child of the 80s and 90s and have not seen The Goonies. I got a smartphone years after they were a thing and I only just started Snapchatting. Another late arrival of mine is Barley Swine. I’ve heard almost unanimously great things about Barley Swine. In fact, so many of my close friends whose palate preferences are aligned with mine sang praises of Barley Swine, that I sometimes recommended Barley Swine to people without having been myself. I just knew I’d probably love it, especially since I’m already a fan of their sister restaurant, Odd Duck.
My friends Thomas and Dawn must have found it peculiar that I still haven’t been and gifted me a gift card to Barley Swine. I decided the best occasion to use this gift was on my one and a half year anniversary with Sugarface! We both went for the first time and I delighted in every bite.
We started with the Chilled Peach Soup with Chèvre and Fennel (not pictured;$8) which was refreshing. The chèvre was a nice counter to the light and sweet peach flavors.
Shiitake pasta; with scrambled egg and summer squash; $12
We followed the soup with another delicate dish, the Shitake Pasta. I recommend popping a whole dumpling in your mouth. The subsequent burst of shitake broth will delight you. I enjoyed seeing Sugarface’s eyes light up after the perfect bite of this.
Pig skin noodles; with hot sauce, almond, shrimp dumplings; $12
Mmm. I liked the saucy pig skin noodles. Though, if you’re sensitive to gelatinous textures, these noodles may not be for you.
Parsley Croissants, with bone marrow, $12
Getting the parsley croissants was a no-brainer for us since we both love flaky croissants so much and I grew up indulging in bone marrow. These croissants were flawless and I’ve never had bone marrow prepared almost like a mousse like that! Those croissants though. I wish they would sell them in a bag to take home!
And the last course was a strong finish. The sausage with crunchy wheat berries grounded the whole meal.It was as if we started the meal floating on whimsy, and then slowly with each course, we coasted back to earth. I only regret taking this long to make it to Barley Swine!
This post is dedicated to my boyfriend Sugarface. Thank you for lending me your camera phone for the shots in this post, being my favorite eating partner, and patiently waiting before digging into most of our meals so I can photograph!
Ozarka® Brand Natural Spring Water sent me a box of Texan products and asked me to share what I love about my home, the great state of Texas. I couldn’t pass up on an opportunity to count the ways I love this state.
I once visited a friend during college in Pennsylvania and met some of her college friends from all over the country. When I shared that I was born and raised in Texas, they laughed and said they’ve noticed Texans were funny. When I inquired why, they said the only students who hung up their state flags were Texan students. This didn’t surprise me. There’s a high level of pride unmatched by other state citizens. And I’m no exception!
To further demonstrate, here are 7 things I love about the Lone Star State.
Tacos from Papalote in Austin, Texas
Because this is a food blog, food comes first on this list. I’ve traveled extensively outside of Texas and our taco game is strong, especially our breakfast tacos! Some of my out of state friends haven’t even experienced the breakfast taco! Here, they revere tacos. You never have to go very far to satisfy a craving.
Barbecue from Black’s in Austin
We’re famous for our smoked meats and barbecue sauce. In fact, you can now buy award-winning Texas barbecue sauce online if you don’t live here. Which brings me to 3.
3. Local Products
In the gift box from Ozarka, I was happy to see three Texan brands I already admire. I grew up on Ozarka water and Ozarka water delivery and never knew they source from three Texas springs! The other two brands I was familiar with were Yellowbird Sauce, which is great on tacos and eggs, and Snow’s BBQ Sauce, named best barbecue sauce in Texas by Texas Monthly. I broke into both sauces and made breakfast tacos with pork butt. I had my tacos with a bag of flavorful Paqui Tortilla Chips, also gifted in Ozarka’s sample box.
Other products included that I’m excited to sample are: Taste Elevated‘s Sweet & Spicy Mustard Seeds – flavor-packed pearls just tender enough to burst in your mouth Jelly Queen’s Black Garlic Rosemary BBQ Sauce -handmade in small batches using organic ingredients Cookwell & Company‘s Queso – cheddar and blue cheeses combined with fire-roasted tomatoes, onions, diced jalapeños, and lime juice
4. City Lights
If it’s urban attractions you’re drawn to, Texas delivers on that too. One of my favorite pastimes is finding pretty cityscapes and photographing them at night. You see, we’re not all desert and country roads.
Speaking of desert, people don’t think lush when they think Texas but there are plenty of pretty views you can drink with your eyes. We have beaches, deserts, lakes, and mountains. I hope to visit Big Bend National Park next year when I visit Marfa, Texas again. Sugarface and I often hike with our dogs at the Greenbelt in Austin. We have beautiful waterfalls and gorgeous gorges. The amount of exploring the great outdoors in Texas you can do is countless.
6. Events and Art and Museum Culture
James Turrell’s Twilight Epiphany Skyspace in Houston, Texas photo by Thomas Chen
With my bestie, a Texas native, at Tout Suite, Houston TX
Last and dearest in my heart is the people of Texas. We’re a friendly group. We make eye contact with strangers and say hello. We say “sir” and “ma’am”, much to the chagrin to those who think being addressed so formally makes them feel old. We do it not to be antagonistic but because we’re raised to be polite. Really though, a good chunk of my dearest friends were born and raised and still reside in Texas. And because of that, Texas will always have my heart.
In April, Oasthouse Kitchen + Bar hosted Austin Food Bloggers for one of our monthly happy hours. I thoroughly enjoyed everything I tasted and was impressed by the beautiful plates. The food paired with the perfect patio weather made the evening with my likeminded friends a great one.
We started the evening with the fried calamari. Tossed in pad thai sauce and punctuated with lime and cilantro, they were a nice play on the traditional fried calamari starter. The Hamachi Crudo was elegant and pleasing to both the eye and the palate. The Caribbean Jerk Pork Tenderloin was tender and drew out murmurs of pleasure from my eating companions. The Spring Pasta felt both decadent and light, made so by lifting up comforting pasta with seasonal vegetables. In short, Owner/Chef Amir Hajimalek has a sophisticated command on flavors that was consistently showcased in his expansive menu. I couldn’t tell you my favorite savory dish from this evening but I will say that Chocolate Nutella Mousse was my favorite dessert!
Things to note: Oasthouse Kitchen + Bar also has a kid’s menu, lunch specials, and serve brunch! If you’re interested in hosting the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance for a happy hour, please email me at email@example.com. Come along on my daily adventures by following me on Instagram and Snapchat!
As mentioned in my previous post, my trip to Miami with my parents was a special one. I was able to partly fulfill one of my dad’s many dreams he had when he immigrated to the states. I was worried about them having a great time since it took so much convincing to go on the trip at all. Luckily, with the combination of good eats, mild weather, and some beautiful sights, I’m happy to report my parents are both happy they agreed to our weekend adventure in Florida. Here’s a recap of the food we ate!
Yardbird was my favorite eatery in Miami. The chicken and waffles and watermelon is a must order. We went for brunch and I already plan to return for dinner the next time I’m visiting! Read a more detailed post of our experience at Yardbird here.
My bestie and hostess for the weekend, Nazanin wanted us to try her favorite pizza place in Miami. We were still stuffed from lunch so the four of us split the eggplant and goat cheese pizza. There was so much flavor in this pizza! We sat outside near a grassy lot on Lincoln Rd. It was the perfect place to feel the sea breeze and watch the throngs of people on the bustling, iconic Miami road.
I have mixed feelings about this Miami hotspot. It was my least favorite place despite how often it surfaced as a recommendation both in my research and in my conversations with friends. The ropa vieja was delicious as were their plantains; their cortaditos were amazing. However, their Cuban sandwiches were a little hard on my jaw to bite into and one of their pork dishes (its name already forgotten) under-seasoned. It might still be worth the visit to see the space and experience the hype!
There’s something about macarons that make me want to take very stylized photos of them. They’re just so photogenic! I first fell in love with Ladurée in Paris. Now if there’s a Ladurée in a city I’m visiting, it’s a given that I will be treating myself to a box of some of the best macarons I’ve had in my life.
745 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33255
We were on our way to Tinta y Cafe for cordatitos and guava pastries when we realized Tinta Y Cafe wasn’t open on Sundays! So we popped into Arahis Bakery, an unassuming Cuban bakery in Little Havana. What a happy accident this ended up being!
At Arahis, I had forgotten the words for “Papas Rellenas” which are stuffed potato balls. They only spoke Spanish in this bakery so I made due by ordering “dos pelotas”. The lady I ordered from was so tickled by my Spanish that she announced it in Spanish to the entire bakery. Laughter exploded and I sheepishly shrugged. It was worth the minor embarrassment because their papas rellenas were muy deliciosas! We also enjoyed the guava and cream cheese puff pastries and cortaditos.
We had our last Miami meal at La Sandwicherie. The sandwiches were so good, I promised myself that I will return every time I’m in Miami. These large and inexpensive croissant sandwiches were made to order in front of us and were bursting with fresh ingredients. I recommend the Tropical, a flaky croissant sandwich with avocado, mozzarella, papaya, mango and pineapple. As you can see in the photo, there’s only a few seats at the counter, so order to-go and walk a couple of blocks and picnic on the beach!
Have I told you about my parents? The short of it is, they worked every day including all major holidays and weekends for decades. Yes, even Christmas! A few years ago, I set aside money in a gift fund in hopes to treat them to a trip when they finally decide to retire. They retired a couple of years ago and last year I was able to make my longtime dream of treating them to a vacation come true. I didn’t expect for my mom to request Vegas but what momma wanted momma got!
Because they chose a fairly inexpensive place to vacation last year, I still had some money left in the gift fund for them. So this year I decided to make one of my dad’s dreams come true. He had written in a journal he gifted me about what it was like to escape Vietnam after the war.
People stayed quiet and looked out the ocean.
They seemed to be in some kind of meditation.
Besides worrying about the safety of the trip,
the sea worthiness of the boat, and the danger
of encountering the Thai pirates, did we really
leave Vietnam behind? Would we ever see Vietnam
again? What about the loved ones that we left
behind? What will be waiting for us when we
come to our destination? I dreamed of being on
Miami Beach, laying on the sand, doing nothing
for at least a month, of going back to college,
studying more, rebuilding my life!!
(Full excerpt here.)
I couldn’t give him a month but loved that he let me take him for a weekend. I say “let” because it took some convincing. It also took the generosity of my sweet friend Nazanin. My parents had the pleasure of seeing her grow up the last 19 years of our best friendship. She offered her guest room and by the end of the weekend, my parents wanted to formally adopt her! She introduced us to her favorite restaurant, famed Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. They have another location in Vegas.
We ordered Nazanin’s two favorites, the Fried Green Tomatoes BLTs and Smoked Brisket Sandwich. I ordered the Chicken ‘n’ Watermelon ‘n’ Waffle and the Shrimp n’ Grits. The thing about my parents never vacationing and doing all their own cooking is they don’t get to experience any of the food trends or iconic American dishes, like chicken and waffles and shrimp and grits!
A decadent appetizer to start, the fried green tomatoes with pork belly set the tone for our indulgent brunch!
Smoked Brisket Sandwich; melted Swiss cheese, house pickles, house-made ketchup, grilled country bread; $16
Heavy on the tender meat and heavy on the toasted crusty carbs, I can see why the smoked brisket sandwich is my friend’s favorite!
Chicken ‘n’ Watermelon ‘n’ Waffles; $36 (feeds at least two!)
The chicken and waffles was the favorite thing my mom ate during our weekend in Miami. The juicy chicken had a kick to it and I loved that it was paired with watermelon! If you find yourself here for the first time, it’s a must-try.
Shrimp n’ Grits; seared shrimp, roasted tomatoes, Virginia Ham, Nora Mill Grits; $28
The grits in this dish had almost a unique custard or casserole texture. I kept coming back for more bites even when I was beyond stuffed.
My beloved parents at Yardbird!
Yardbird was a delectable vacation stop for us. Next time I’m trying the Maple Bacon Doughnuts and the Fried Oreos (only available during dinner). Reservations are encouraged and recommended!
Questions: Where was your last family vacation? Favorite vacation meal?
True Food Kitchen opens in Austin today! I had the pleasure of previewing their menu last week.
My friend Kate told me that one of her favorite healthy restaurants is opening a location in Austin. As she was telling me about the restaurant, the name True Food Kitchen rang a bell. One quick search in my email and I saw that I was invited to preview their menu. I took Kate as my date and let her introduce me the wonders of True Food Kitchen.
Tucked in Austin’s new Seaholm District, True Food Kitchen felt like a hidden gem. Their entrance was flanked by adorable herb gardens, setting the tone of their mission, which is to provide healthy anti-inflamatory food with great flavor. We both ordered “refreshers”, which were like healthy mocktails. I started with the pomegranate limeade but quickly traded it for a Kale-Aid (kale, cucumber, lemon, ginger, celery, apple; $6) after tasting Kate’s. They also have actual cocktails, but we abstained since we had to return to work.
Edamame Dumplings; with dashi, daikon, and white truffle oil; $9
I learned that the menu we sampled is currently unique to Austin. True Food Kitchen is testing out a new menu and debuting it with the grand opening of their Austin location. Kate and I shared the edamame dumplings to start. It was delectable, and I loved the dashi sauce. I kept spooning it over the dumplings. I couldn’t quite taste the truffle oil in this dish, but it was still perfect in my eyes.
Red Chili Noodle Bowl with Shrimp; Chinese eggplant,
gai lan (also known as Chinese broccoli), snow pea,
shitake mushroom, cashew, cilantro; $18
I may have stopped reading the rest of the menu when I saw they had a noodle bowl. If there’s one food I can eat every day, it’s noodles. Abundant with vegetables, these stir-fried noodles felt healthier than the noodles I typically indulge in. Eating these noodles was the most virtuous I’ve felt while eating noodles.
Kate ordered the Seabass, and we both oohed and ahhed over how divinely it flaked with our prodding forks. The flavor from the lemon-nooch emulsion danced on my tongue. She was quite pleased with her dish and I loved that she shared.
Chia Seed Pudding; chia seeds, soaked in rich coconut milk, with bananas slices and crunchy toasted coconut
If someone told me that I’d be haunted by a chia seed pudding before I had this one, I’d laugh in his or her face. But I can’t shake this chia pudding from my mind. I would swim in a bowl of this if I could. In fact, I may try to replicate this dessert soon.
As we drove back to our office, Kate and I both agreed that we were happy with our meal and would order everything again with exception a couple of the refreshers. We both endorse the Kale-Aid. We can’t wait to go back!
I recently spent a weekend in Fredericksburg with Sugarface. We stayed at a secluded cabin rental about 15 minutes away from downtown Fredericksburg with our puppies. It was a welcomed reprieve from a stressful week. I enjoyed the evenings in with him, playing scrabble and watching the dogs go wild on the property. Though we spent a good amount of time at the cabin, we also made time to walk Main St. and to dine at three quaint establishments in Fredericksburg, and I wanted to share them with you!
We brunched at Sunset Grill before heading out to Enchanted Rock for our hiking adventure. We loved our whole experience at Sunset Grill, from sitting outside in their tiny courtyard, to the happy service, and finally to their delicious brunch menu. Sugarface ordered the biscuits and gravy and I the chorizo omelette. We both gobbled up our entrees and made happy plates. Sugarface declared my omelette the best omelette he’s ever had. (And if you’ve seen him judge food, you would know he’s not an easy win.)
Santa Fe omelette; chorizo, onions, jack and cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole and pico; $10
Country Biscuit and Sausage Gravy; with eggs and roasted red potatoes; $9
On our first night, we had dinner at Otto’s, a recommendation from my friend Amy. We started off with their Flammkuchen (flatbread with crème fraiche, cambozola, gruyère, caramelized onions, arugula candied bacon, aged balsamic). It had all the ingredients I normally love, but I thought the flavors fell a bit flat.
For entrees, I had the Foie Gras “BLT”. (I will order foie gras so long as it’s on the menu.) The deconstructed BLT was uniquely executed. Sugarface loved the tomato jam. He ordered the German classic Duck Schnitzel and we both thought his duck was cooked to perfection. Though the texture was perfect, I wish it was a tad more seasoned. All in all, I can see why Otto’s is a popular dining spot in Fredericksburg; the ambiance and service were warm and inviting. I loved dining on their twinkle lit sidewalk patio.
Tucked in the basement of a sophisticated furniture and home goods store, Vaundeville had a swanky speakeasy feel to it. Jazzy live music was playing as we sat at the bar. Sugarface ordered the French Dip Sandwich and I ordered the Black Truffle Pizza. He said his sandwich the best French Dip he’s had and again he’s not prone to superlatives. The black truffle pizza was my favorite dish of the weekend. They were so generous with their black truffle shavings! It was the perfect meal to end our quiet and pleasurable weekend in Fredericksburg. Thanks again to Amy for this recommendation!
Black Truffle pizza; black truffle bechamel, housemade ricotta, charred asparagus, and black truffle; $30
It started raining on our way out of Fredericksburg and it foiled our plans of trying out Burger Burger on the patio with our pups. We also were interested in the brisket burgers from Jennie’s Smoked Burgers and Tornado Fries. I guess that means we’ll be coming back to Fredericksburg!
The February Austin Food Bloggers Alliance happy hour was hosted at Pacific Rim Sushi & Yakitori Lounge. Owned by the same people of Maiko Sushi Bar, Pacific Rim treated us to gyozas, chicken and salmon yakitori skewers, spicy yellowtail rolls, tuna and avocado nachos, and sake mac & cheese. The popular favorite was sake mac & cheese, also made evident by what was most instagrammed under our hashtag. When we were coming back for seconds and thirds of the sake mac and cheese, Owner Benny Leung warned us to save room for the surprise demo.
He then rolled out a hot rock and introduced his new menu offering of Japense Hot Rock, where you can order fresh ingredients that are to be cooked to perfection table side. Everything from seafood, Wagyu beef, lamb, duck, to a variety of vegetables like asparagus and eggplant. We all were entranced by the smell of sizzling meats and vegetables. Greedily, we dipped our samples into a trio of sauces offered (ginger, ponzu, and BBQ) and murmured to each other our satisfaction.
If you’re a food blogger in Austin, I encourage you to join Austin Food Bloggers Alliance, a community of likeminded bloggers, all passionate about flavor. If you’re a local Austin business interested in hosting us, shoot me an email!
What made this post both difficult and easy to write is that any venue could be a great spot if you’re spending quality time with your boo thang or boo thang prospect. Still, in case you’re stumped, here’s my take on best date spots in Austin. I focused on coffee date alternatives, spendy dates, dives and holes-in-the-wall, cozy and intimate restaurants, and venues that serve more than just food and drink. I hope you enjoy this list and are inspired to go on more dates!
For when you’re tired of the coffee first date but aren’t ready to commit to a full meal
A sweet gelato addition to East Austin. If the date goes well, you can wander East 6th for drinks or trailer eats. Pictured above is their take on sgroppino. Traditionally done with lemon sorbet and vodka, their take involves peach sorbet and prosecco. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention they’re also a bar! A gelateria and bar!
A coffee bar downtown, Halcyon has become an Austin staple and their table top s’mores an iconic Austin dessert. They often have live music in the evenings and serve comforting small bites and desserts.
Counter 3 . Five . VII only seats 25 or 26 people at their counter and they feature tasting menus of either 3, 5, or 7 courses. (Oh, now I get it!) My first time at Counter 3. Five. VII was on Valentine’s Day when my sweet friend, Foodie is the New Forty could not make her Valentine’s Day reservation and gifted us the romantic dinner she was supposed to have. The up close and intimate seating sets the tone for the night and the menu was precisely executed right before our eyes.
If this is your first date, you can slyly work in the fun fact that Lyndon B. Johnson took Lady Bird on their first date at the Driskill. Just don’t be creepy about it. You can read my post about the Driskill here.
The name of this restaurant warms my heart as it is a nod to one of my favorite books. Celebrity chef Tim Love, the master mind behind Lonesome Dove brings to Austin another fine dining restaurant that specializes in game.
Food and service are on par with their sister, Uchiko. Also another great place for celebratory dates.
For classy people who enjoy dives and holes-in-the-wall
1005 E Braker Ln., Austin, TX 78753
Literally tucked inside a convenience store, Chicken Lollypop serves Indian fusion that is cheap, delicious, and unique. You obviously have to order the chicken lollypops as a starter.
Kin & Comfort
1700 W Parmer, Ste 100, Austin, TX 78727
Tucked inside Hanna World Market is Kin & Comfort. I’ve tried everything on the menu and liked it all. Order the Shrimp and Grits. Since you’ll already be in the neighborhood, hop on over to Snow Monster for a fun dessert option.
When I asked about date spots on social media, Aurel of Gourmet Cubicle suggested Bullfight. “Especially on Wednesdays, because after drinks and tapas there you can just walk over to ColdTown Theater for improv comedy.” They serve Spanish tapas and small plates.
I love Sway. In fact, Sugarface and I celebrated our one year anniversary here after watching Die Hard. It was the perfect night. Try the Son In Law and definitely have the Thai Tea Affogato for dessert.
1519 E Cesar Chavez, Ste 200, Austin, TX 78702
Some of my close friends say Bufalina is one of their go-to date spots. Quaint space and great pizza. If you are discouraged by the line, take a leisurely stroll hand in hand to WeatherUp.
Sure dinner and a movie can be a bit of a date cliche but not if it’s dinner and a movie at the same time. If you go to the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar you can grab drinks and snack at Highball. (Read my post about Highball.)
I’ve done a few cooking classes with Central Market and think they make awesome date nights. What’s not sexy about getting handsy with your food and sharing bites over wine?
So that’s my take. What’s yours? If you’re in Austin, what are your favorite romantic places? If you’re not in Austin, tell me about your most memorable dates!
This post was written in collaboration with Austin Food Bloggers Alliance‘s yearly City Guide project. This is also an updated version and my second year of covering best date spots in Austin. You can read 2015’s post here.